Saturday, September 30, 2006

How To Build Bill Clinton’s Legacy – Lesson One is ‘Shut Up’

By now, everyone has heard about former President (yes, this guy was once a sitting President of the United States) Bill Clinton’s altercation with Chris Wallace on Fox News. The tantrum on national television brought joy to comedians and cartoonists, stress to the political aspirations of a number of politicians (especially a certain Senator for the State of New York), and additional damage to the supposed existence of a “legacy” for William Jefferson Clinton. I have no intention of addressing the specifics of the debate from that noisy interview, as others have already done so admirably, and in any case to advance the Leftist lie even through refuting it is not morally palatable. Besides, this article addresses that most elusive of Clintonian qualities, durable accomplishments. There is a way, actually, for Bill Clinton to ease memories of his less-laudable moments, and to establish something on which he may yet demonstrate that much-vaunted intellect and perceptivity. The road to that goal lies through the example of fellow former President Richard Milhous Nixon.

Yep, old “Tricky Dick” himself. Nixon actually did quite a bit during his two terms which was notable ands even worthy of some praise, but he blew it all away because of Watergate. Humorist Dave Barry once speculated that an enemy must have somehow installed a “stupid ray” in the White House, because every President has moments which are too stupid to explain in any normal way. In Nixon’s case, Barry observed that Nixon was undone by secret tape recordings which proved what he was saying and thinking during the Watergate scandal. Barry pointed out how strange it was, to consider that Nixon was the one person fully aware of the taping and yet was the one person damaged the most by them. A brilliant man undone by an incredibly stupid chain of decisions. Nixon resigned rather than face certain impeachment. Clinton won’t want to admit it, but he has a certain similarity to Nixon on that level, wouldn’t you say?

But I am not here to heckle Clinton, seriously. You see, By the time he died, Richard Nixon had done quite a bit to rehabilitate his reputation, to the point that even Democrats were publicly accepting him as something of an elder statesman. Anyone familiar with the names and descriptions of Nixon circa 1975 would be amazed by that transformation. To be sure, the most rabid Nixon-hater never forgave him, but the average person did. This has figured in creating a legacy for Nixon which focuses on his Administration in a kinder light. No, he will not be thought of as a “great” President, but his name is not ridiculed and his reputation is actually above average. While he may grind his teeth to follow in the footsteps of a hated enemy, Bill Clinton may find that this way is the only viable course.

The first step is often the hardest, and this may be excruciatingly so for Clinton. You see, the first thing Nixon did after resigning was to go home and shut up. Nixon gave no interviews, wrote no books, and made no attempt to stick his nose into things for more than a decade after leaving the White House. He answered Presidents who called on him, yes, and he continued personal writings and research at home, and when the time was appropriate he did produce books and essays and interviews, but not while the emotions were still raw and the hatred still venomous. One of the biggest post-office mistakes which Bill Clinton has made, is to continue stoking those fires by shooting his mouth off at every opportunity.

You don't seem a bad sort, Mister Clinton. Lots of people find you likable and intelligent. But if you really want to have that legacy, you are going to have to learn when to shut up and sit down.

1 comment:

Big V said...

I've often thought if Nixon had grabbed John Dean, HR Halderman, et al by the back of the neck, held them up as the idiots they were and booted them out, he would have gone on to be a truly great president... but that never happened. I vividly recall the Watergate era and the media nearly bringing down the country in their effort to bring down the man. Gerald Ford was widely criticized for pardoning Mr Nixon but unless you were there, you had no idea of the pall Watergate had thrown across the country. Mr Clinton got off easy in comparison, despite beliefs to the contrary from those not around during Watergate.

My Father always told me the best way to help something heal is to stop picking it. Mr Clinton would be wise to heed that advice.